Agassiz Harrison school bus driver Gary Lillico started an online petition advocating for seatbelts on Canadian School buses. In only a few weeks his change.org page has reached more than 4,800 signatures.                                Nina Grossman/The Observer

Agassiz Harrison school bus driver Gary Lillico started an online petition advocating for seatbelts on Canadian School buses. In only a few weeks his change.org page has reached more than 4,800 signatures. Nina Grossman/The Observer

School bus seatbelt petition gains ground on Vancouver Island

Port Alberni school trustee has pushed for seatbelts for 40 years

BY MIKE YOUDS

Special to the News

Public pressure for mandatory seatbelts on school buses has grown louder since a Port Alberni school trustee raised the concern among fellow board members this fall.

Trustee Rosemarie Buchanan was among viewers who tuned in to recent episodes of CBC’s Fifth Estate, reporting that thousands of Canadian kids have been injured or killed because school buses are not equipped with seatbelts.

The show highlighted a petition launched by Gary Lillico, an Agassiz school bus driver, calling for Transport Canada to require seatbelts. More than 45,000 people have signed the petition since it was posted by Change.org.

Buchanan recalls raising the seatbelt concern as a newly elected school trustee almost 40 years ago. She questions why a 2010 Transport Canada study, which determined that seatbelts would prevent injuries and save lives, was not released to the public.

“Who was manipulating this and to whose benefit?”

The issue was thrust into the spotlight after the Humboldt Broncos tragedy last spring, though that collision involved a motor coach, not a school bus.

When Buchanan raised her concern again at the first meeting of the new school board last month, trustees agreed to flag it for wider consideration by the B.C. School Trustees Association. Trustees gathered at the regional “academy” of school boards held recently in Vancouver, but the issue wasn’t brought to the floor.

“There was some discussion, but I think we’re in a bit of a holding pattern,” she said.

The estimated cost of retrofitting the Alberni Valley school bus fleet is $7,000 to $10,000 per vehicle, she said. There are only a half dozen or so buses in the fleet, but equipping them could be complicated by seating configurations that vary between elementary and secondary students.

“We haven’t actually sat down as a group and gone over it,” Buchanan said. “I think we are all on the right side of the issue.”

School board chair Pam Craig said the matter has been considered only in preliminary fashion and would be pursued by the provincial body, not locally.

“It wouldn’t be us as a school district dealing with it. It would be the larger body looking into it,” Craig said. “If it does come forward, it will be at the April AGM.

There are counter arguments that suggest buses are designed to be safer than other passenger vehicles and don’t need seatbelts as a result. Buchanan notes that may be true in collision but not in rollovers.

“I think we well be seeing a lot of school districts pressuring the province, but I don’t think the money should come from the province,” she added.

Transport Canada should be the agency responsible, especially since it sat on the report for almost a decade.

“Now we’ve got eight years of catching up to do and I think the federal government should pay for it,” Buchanan said.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau ordered a departmental review of school bus safety and seatbelts last month after the Fifth Estate series first aired.

Just Posted

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

North Saanich advisor says initiative supports urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

General manager Lindsey Pomper says Sidney’s Star Cinema cannot wait welcome audiences when it reopens June 18, amid an easing of public health measures. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney’s Star Cinema raises curtain for the first time after months in the darkness

Iconic theatre to reopen at half capacity for Friday night showing

A dogs in parks pilot study unanimously approved by Saanich council will evaluate how park space can best be shared between dog owners and non-owners alike. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Saanich to study park-sharing strategy between those with and without pets

District-wide People, Parks and Dogs study to produce recommendations by fall

Staff member Lena Laitinen gives the wall at BoulderHouse a workout during a media tour on June 16. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
BoulderHouse raring to rock Langford

Popularity of bouldering continues to climb across Greater Victoria

The Sooke Potholes is a jewel in the community's crown. Transition Sooke hosts a town hall meeting on community growth on June 26. (Courtesy: Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke forum tackles community growth

To Grow or Not to Grow online town hall meeting set for June 26

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read